Two recent articles assess most astutely what must be part of the discussion that has been transpiring in Jerusalem since U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns began the parade of high U.S. officials meeting within Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu since last week, all prior to Mitt Romney’s arrival in Israel at the end of the month. It is assumed that most of their focus has been on the break-up of the Iranian talks; the effectiveness and consequences of the sanctions; and the scenarios on the table to prevent Iran from going nuclear. What is fascinating about these recent pieces is how solid the thinking is on the one hand by a former U.S. Pentagon official and on the other by a former IDF General and major national security adviser to Governments.
In a very lucid presentation, Lee Smith in Tablet last week presented the American perspective on a possible U.S. strike with the one critical new variable that former (Ret.) Gen. Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the United States Army added to the discussion for those who have been consistently thinking small about what a U.S. attack of Iran would be like. While he himself appeared to oppose a U.S. strike except as a last resort, he made an exceedingly logical point concerning what a U.S. strike would accomplish:
“My judgment tells me that if we did something as devastating as we could do, taking down their major sites, which also means their engineers and scientists, I think the setback would be greater than five years. …This is not just about the nuclear facilities—their military will be decapitated. This is the U.S. military. “
Were the U.S. to opt to attack the Iranian nuclear sites and facilities, why has everyone assumed that this would be a modest operation which would—like an Israeli attack—only destroy Iran’s capability to go nuclear for one to three years? He made the obvious point which is consistently been missed, that if the U.S. goes after the Iranian nuclear installations, this will not be a single attack. Should the U.S. attack they have the power and the capacity as well as the good sense to finish the job by eliminating not only Iran’s nuclear force but its total offensive and defensive capabilities. This would not be a single wave or several bombings but a sustained attack; regardless of how long it might take. If the threat is real, it needs to be eliminated and not merely put on the disabled list for a time.
From the Israeli perspective the former head of the IDF Planning Directorate from 2001-2003 as well as the former head of the Israeli National Security Council from 2003-2006, General Giora Eiland, argues most articulately that Israel blew its major military opportunity and now is stuck waiting for the U.S. to act. In a weekend interview in Haaretz with Ari Shavit , he presents a brilliantly developed analysis of the entire Iran deliberation over the past decade. While Israel could act today and thus set back the Iranian program for a maybe a few years, it might actually add fuel to Iran’s fire, stabilize the regime, add the hostility towards Israel, gain support for Iran’s battle against the Zionists from much of the Arab world, and obtain increased support for their leadership. He does not preclude Israel taking action but he recognizes the sizeable potential downside loss if they do so.